Well, ladies and gentlemen, another auto show has come and gone, and I think we all know what that means: Infiniti has released yet another ridiculous concept car that will never, under any circumstances, see production.
Yes, that's right, folks: I am going to devote an entire column to Infiniti without mentioning the "Q" naming scheme. Oh, sure, I could talk about how it makes no sense that the QX50 is more powerful than the QX60. And I could mention the fact that the QX60 is inexplicably larger than the QX70, but smaller than the QX80. And I could pontificate on how I think the entire "Q" thing was a deliberate attempt to mislead buyers into believing that Infiniti's lineup is all-new, when in fact they're peddling several vehicles that debuted back when we all thought "tea party" was something old money Connecticut housewives attended while their husbands were at work. But I'm not going to do any of that, because today we're talking about concept cars.
Infiniti's latest concept car, released last week at the Paris Auto Show, is called the Q80 Inspiration Concept. For those of you who haven't seen it, allow me to fill you in on the details: it's wide, it's sleek, it's low-slung; it has beautiful, artistic lines and a powerful, efficient hybrid engine. And there isn't a single government safety regulation, anywhere in the world, that it passes. It has no mirrors, for Christ's sake.
Now, typically, this sort of thing would be business as usual for an automaker like Infiniti, which is going up against some seriously established rivals like BMW, and Mercedes, and such. Every few years, you put out a concept car that grabs the headlines, and steals the show, and reminds people that you do, in fact, still exist.
A great example of this is the Cadillac Cien, which was this bold mid-engine supercar concept that Cadillac released back in 2002. What happened was, Cadillac showed this thing, and people went crazy, and they oohed, and they aahed, and they took pictures, and videos, and they demanded to see it on the roads, and then two years later Cadillac came out with the DTS.
But here's the thing: that's not how Infiniti does concept cars. How Infiniti does concept cars is, they come out with them all the time. You sort of get the sense, if you closely observe these things, that Infiniti thinks it's always the right moment for a new concept car. "It's the office Christmas party!" says a memo that undoubtedly circulates to Infiniti employees near the end of every year. "So we're going to come out with a new CONCEPT car!" And then they gather everyone together, and they show it off, and it's just a high-tech Santa sleigh without mirrors.
To prove my point, allow me to take you on a journey back through the last few auto shows. Earlier this year in Geneva, you had the Q50 Eau Rouge Concept, which is largely acceptable since a) it looks like a normal automobile, and b) there is some small chance it may actually see production. Last year in Frankfurt, there was the Q30 Concept, which had mirrors, but no door handles. The 2012 auto show season was busy for Infiniti, because they released both the Emerg-E Concept, which was a mid-engine supercar without mirrors or door handles, and also the "LE Concept" which was – I swear this is true – a chromed Nissan Sentra with a grille that lights up. And then in 2011, you had the Etherea Concept, which had no door handles, no mirrors, suicide doors, and a name that sounded suspiciously like "urethra."
So, to sum this up: Infiniti has debuted a total of six concept cars in the last three years. This, ladies and gentlemen, is a huge number. It's almost as if, while Volkswagen was sitting there coming up with volume targets ("Ve must sell four million wee-hicles tomorrow afternoon!"), Infiniti was coming up with concept car targets, such as: We must build three new concept cars this year, with a total of two mirrors and four door handles.
Now, this wouldn't be so bad if Infiniti was a full-line automaker, and they were supplementing all these concept cars with a wide range of new models that were constantly going on sale. But that isn't what's happening. In fact, in the same period that those six new concept cars came out, Infiniti has debuted just two new production cars: the Q50 and the JX35. In other words: in the last three years, Infiniti has released three times as many concept cars as production cars.
And even this would be OK if Infiniti's product lineup was new, and fresh, and modern, and filled with all sorts of high-tech gadgets like automatic parking, and built-in laptop computers, and inflatable seats, and teleportation, and powered flight. Because then we'd excuse the concepts, saying that Infiniti is just so hip and modern that they don't need any new production cars.
But that isn't happening either. In fact, the Infiniti EX – which was recently rechristened the QX3Million, in honor of Infiniti's goal of bringing three million concept cars to starving children in Africa – debuted in the fall of 2007, and continues, almost completely unchanged, to this very day. In other words: if you were a fourth-grader back when the EX made its debut, you'd currently have your driver's license. And you'd be begging your parents for an Infiniti Urethra.
So anyway, Infiniti is clearly devoting way too much energy to the concept car world, and nowhere near enough energy creating new production cars. To help them get back on track, I think that I should take over the chief executive position, which is recently vacant after the departure of Johan de Nysschen. Here's what I would do: number one, stop making concept cars. And number two, look into the feasibility of a high-tech Santa sleigh without mirrors. We could call it the Qdolph.
@DougDeMuro is the author of Plays With Cars. He owned an E63 AMG wagon and once tried to evade police at the Tail of the Dragon using a pontoon boat. (It didn't work.) He worked as a manager for Porsche Cars North America before quitting to become a writer, largely because it meant he no longer had to wear pants. Also, he wrote this entire bio himself in the third person.